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Exploring empathy through movement and story-telling

00:00 / 36:35

A conversation with
Kosta Karakashyan

Also available in

Laura María Calderón Cuevas

Véronique Lerch

Brua |



The guest of this episode is a Bulgarian-Armenian director, choreographer, producer, and writer exploring empathy through movement and storytelling. His dancing career started with ballroom dancing when he was 5. After a childhood full of dance competitions during weekends, Kosta started working as a professional dancer at 18 with Dancing with the stars Vietnam. 

While he was studying dance in New-York, he made a 6-minute dance short film, Waiting for Color, about the violations of human rights of LGBT people in Chechnya. “It was really a very personal work. I think every artist is lucky if they have two or three of these works in their life, when you feel so moved to create something that it doesn't matter if it is with a budget or without, but you feel like you are really drawing the inspiration out of thin air and you feel so sure that this is the project that you were made to create.”

“There is something about art, in general, when it is done in a truthful way, that just makes you stop in your tracks.” Organisations working with human rights can learn a lot from dance as dance is about growing together. Dance is a conversation where you invite the other person, you take risks together and then you finally “become fabulous” and go further together than you would have gone alone. “Sometimes you need to find that flexibility and freedom to feel that we are moving forward.”

His advice to artists, people working for NGOs and every listener of the podcast:

  • To artists: a lot of listening in the beginning. Start meeting people working within the human rights sector and asking where they think art could be part of the whole picture!

  • To people working for NGOs: create spaces for artists to come together and play!

  • To everyone: go and support your local artists!


The European master’s in human rights showed him that it really a team effort to advance human rights and cannot be limited to lawyers or artists. 


Reading keeps him grounded; when he feels overwhelmed, instrumental music in general helps him to keep focused and calm his minds. There is however one song in particular that reminds him that he can take things easy and not try to do everything at the same time: Vienna from Billy Joel.  


Sometimes you need to find that flexibility and freedom to feel that we are moving forward

Kosta Karakashyan


Kosta Karakashyan is a Bulgarian-Armenian director, choreographer, producer, and writer exploring empathy through movement and storytelling.

His work has been described as "an important voice for LGBTQ+ struggles in Chechnya and elsewhere" by The Columbia Spectator. A two-time Bulgarian National Ballroom Champion, Kosta has performed and choreographed on Dancing With the Stars Vietnam, Bulgaria's Got Talent, and across Canada, Germany, Norway, Egypt, Vietnam, and Japan. He graduated with a BA in Dance from Columbia University and a Master's in Human Rights from the Global Campus of Human Rights in Venice, Italy.

Kosta has worked with artists such as Rita Ora, Years and Years and Sherihan. Bringing his experience of choreography and performance to the screen, Kosta has directed, produced, and choreographed a variety of short films, commercials and music videos through his production company Studio Karakashyan, most notably the documentary dance film WAITING FOR COLOR about the ongoing LGBTQ+ persecution in Chechnya. The film was awarded the Prix Lumière at Cinédanse Festival Ottawa 2019 and has been selected at over 20 festivals worldwide and featured by The GuardianElle MagazineBloombergthemGLAAD, and Radio Free Europe.

His choreography has been presented by the Columbia Ballet Collaborative (NYC), Ballet Arabesque (Bulgaria) and the Gabrovo Biennial of Humor and Satire (Bulgaria). He was part of David France's BAFTA-winning, Emmy-nominated documentary feature film Welcome to Chechnya as a face double protecting the anonymity of the real subjects of the film. He is the creator and founding editor-in-chief of, a Bulgarian LGBTQ+ community platform, featured on BBC World Service OS and The New East is Queer.

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